It’s hard to imagine our life without dogs, but these creatures haven’t always been like that. Our best friends are descended from wolves, creatures with which they share more physical than behavioral features. Since it’s hard to picture how dogs evolved from wolves, scientists performed a study on the domestication process of dogs.
How did dogs become our best friends?
Researchers from the University of Michigan were interested in the evolution of dogs and their domestication process. Therefore, they started looking at their DNA to find the answers they needed. This way, they observed an interesting phenomenon. Certain pieces of modern dog DNA looked a lot different than the DNA of their ancestors.
As a result, they started exploring the canine genome in more detail. This way, they identified a series of genes that weren’t typical of all dogs but rather identified a breed dog. However, this was a relatively new trait that appeared about 300 years ago, so it couldn’t account for the entire evolution of dogs.
To understand the domestication process, researchers knew they had to look at village dogs. These account for about three quarters of all dogs in the world and include specimens that can mate without restrictions and scavenge for food.
Village dogs revealed the whole domestication process was genetic
Therefore, they selected 43 such dogs coming from different locations. Then, they compared their DNA with ancient dog DNA dating back 5,000 years ago and wolf DNA. This way, they made some important observations, namely tell breed-specific genes apart from those arisen during the initial domestication process.
Researchers found 243 genes related to domestication that influenced the behavior of dogs and function of their brain. Also, these findings supported an older theory on domestication. This claims those physical traits we associate with tame animals are the result of complex genetic processes. These processes become active during evolution in some brain cells called the neural crest cells.
Therefore, this complex analysis has revealed the domestication process of dogs is the result of genetics and brain cell changes during evolution.
Image source: PxHere